Man And The Cosmos by August Derleth

April 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Online Audio

Man And The Cosmos by August W. Derleth

I discovered Man And The Cosmos by August Derleth, a poem from the cosmicist school of poetry, languishing in the pages of Wonder Stories, April 1935. According to ISFDB it has never been reprinted. When Derleth wrote it he was talking about what he thought would come. Today, at this very moment, people are up there on the International Space Station, living it.

Man and the Cosmos
By August W. Derleth

Death lies athwart the frozen dark
Where never the song of a lark
Has echoed; here breeds the unknown spawn
Of evil, here where there is no dawn.

None but man deserts the light
For probing in this endless night;
None but he dares the icy breath
Of the lurking cosmic death.

Only a tiny atom of flesh
Webbed in an unanswerable mesh
Of questions and burning doubt,
Wanting to known what Life’s about.

And, the generous Mr. Jim Moon, of the Hypnobobs podcast, has today recorded it for our listening pleasure.

|MP3|

[Thanks Jim!]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Clarkesworld: Guest Of Honor by Robert Reed

April 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Online Audio

I first heard Robert Reed’s outstanding novelette, Guest Of Honor, as an audiobook in the mid-1990s. It was narrated by Amy Bruce for Infinivox (get that version HERE).

It blew me away.

Guest Of Honor is undeniably GREAT SCIENCE FICTION, the kind of which only seems to show up once or twice a decade. If you haven’t already heard it, prepare yourself for some pure idea fiction.

There’s no official description for this astounding story so here’s mine:

When immortality is on the table accidents are naturally the uppermost fear on your mind. As an immortal you wouldn’t do anything nearly so dangerous as space travel, but all the same as an immortal you’d necessarily crave such new sensations so as to offset the boredom of an infinite future. And that’s where Pico comes in, she’s an adventurer gathering experiences for the immortals who sponsored her back on Earth. Her story, or stories, even if they are only vicarious, will be cherished by the many and she will be the guest of honor when she returns.

Clarkesworld MagazineClarkesworld Magazine #79 – Guest Of Honor
By Robert Reed; Read by Kate Baker
1 |MP3| – Approx. 1 Hour 21 Minuites [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Clarkesworld
Podcast: April 22, 2013
First published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1993.

Podcast feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/clarkesworldmagazine/podcast

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyaenko

April 23, 2013 by · 6 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Night Watch
By Sergei Lukyaenko; Read by Paul Michael
15 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2012
Themes: / Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Magic / Good and Evil / Supernatural /

Sergei Lukyanenko is a science-fiction and fantasy author, writing in Russian, and is arguably the most popular contemporary Russian sci-fi writer. His works often feature intense action-packed plots, interwoven with the moral dilemma of keeping one’s humanity while being strong.

In The Night Watch, set in modern Moscow, the “Others” live among us, an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers who swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. A thousand-year treaty has maintained the balance of power, and the two sides coexist in an uneasy truce. But an ancient prophecy decrees that one supreme “Other” will rise up and tip the balance, plunging the world into a catastrophic war between the Dark and the Light. When a young boy with extraordinary powers emerges, fulfilling the first half of the prophecy, will the forces of the Light be able to keep the Dark from corrupting the boy and destroying the world?

The book is three novellas, linked by their setting and the fact that each is told by Anton, a Light Other who is now getting field experience after being a file clerk for several years. As he gets more experience, the reader learns more about the subtleties and intricacies of the world between Light and Dark. Each of the stories is thoroughly engrossing and although they build upon each other, the first two stand alone fairly well. The third conclusion brings the book’s overall story arc to a conclusion.

The first page of the book has two messages, which are puzzling and amusing as an introduction. However when I had finished the book I realized they also served to sum up how the author uses the different stories and characters:

This text has been approved for distribution as conducive to the cause of Light. — The Night Watch

This text has been approved for distribution as conducive to the cause of Dark. — The Day Watch

Final result: simply fantastic. The way the three stories all look at Light and Dark, treaties and compromises, and even what it means to be unyielding on one side or the other … not only provides a gripping adventure, but food for thought about our own lives.

Audio Notes: I was delighted to find the audio CD available for only $10 and promptly began “rereading.” Narrator Paul Michael has a low key style in reading this book. His dialogue reading features what sound like authentic Russian accents which enhance the book greatly since Anton’s thoughts are read in a regular American accent.

However, I soon noticed that whenever a character spoke there is very little emotion portrayed, no matter how stressful the moment. There are plenty of stressful, action-filled moments and to have them all conveyed in such a subdued fashion drained the color and excitement of the story for me. Eventually, the entire book seemed so colorless that I stopped listening and picked up the print copy to read the third novella.

My husband regularly has conference calls with Russians. Upon hearing my comments, he mentioned that he has noticed a monotonous quality whenever the Russians are speaking English. He attributes it to the difficulty in speaking a foreign language and conducting business simultaneously. Although I was interested to hear this, I neither know nor care whether this is a universal Russian trait. Story narration requires some level of acting to convey the text properly to the ear.

Whatever the reason, I cannot recommend the audio if you want to experience the full flavor of the book.

Posted by Julie D.

Review of Iced by Karen Marie Moning

April 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Iced by Karen Marie MoningIced (A Dani O’Malley Novel)
By Karen Marie Moning; Read by Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
ISBN: 978-1-4558-1769-6
13 discs; 15 hours [UNABRIDGED]

Themes: / urban fantasy / faerie / Dublin /

Publisher Summary:

Dani “Mega” O’Malley plays by her own set of rules — and in a world overrun by Dark Fae, her biggest rule is: Do what it takes to survive. Possessing rare talents and the all-powerful Sword of Light, Dani is more than equipped for the task. In fact, she’s one of the few humans who can defend themselves against the Unseelie. But now, amid the pandemonium, her greatest gifts have turned into serious liabilities.

Dani’s ex–best friend, MacKayla Lane, wants her dead, the terrifying Unseelie princes have put a price on her head, and Inspector Jayne, the head of the police force, is after her sword and will stop at nothing to get it. What’s more, people are being mysteriously frozen to death all over the city, encased on the spot in sub-zero, icy tableaux.

When Dublin’s most seductive nightclub gets blanketed in hoarfrost, Dani finds herself at the mercy of Ryodan, the club’s ruthless, immortal owner. He needs her quick wit and exceptional skill to figure out what’s freezing Fae and humans dead in their tracks — and Ryodan will do anything to ensure her compliance.

Dodging bullets, fangs, and fists, Dani must strike treacherous bargains and make desperate alliances to save her beloved Dublin — before everything and everyone in it gets iced.

The strict genre shelving in bookstores can be unfortunate for readers. I would guess that many fantasy fans have not read Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series because her books are shelved under romance even though the series is more Urban Fantasy than Paranormal Romance. The new Dani O’Malley series which is a sequel to the Fever series is even less qualified for the romance shelves. The first installment, Iced, has even less romance than the entire Fever series.

The walls separating Faerie and the human world have come down. Rifts in reality can send an unwary person to an entirely different time and place. Unseelie monsters roam the streets and the human race is decimated. There is no power and creatures called “shades” devour any living thing that ventures into the dark. The plants and animals are gone, so food is a problem. Now, there’s a new problem. Around the city, people and objects are being instantaneously frozen. The people seem to be unaware of their impending deaths. Anyone entering these tableaux will freeze to death very quickly.

Dani “Mega” O’Malley is a 14-year-old sidhe seer living on the streets of Dublin. She has some abilities that make her see herself as a superhero. She is very fast, very strong and is keenly observant. However, she’s also an adolescent girl with a disturbing and damaging past. The owner of a popular nightclub forces Dani to work with him to solve the problem of areas around the region getting “iced”. Because she can move at hyperspeed, she better able to move into the frozen areas without suffering hypothermia.

The story is told entirely in first person, 90% from Dani’s point of view. However there are some sections that are told by Kat, the new leader of the sidhe seers, and Christian, a young highlander who is transforming into a sex-addicted unseelie prince.

I really loved Dani and the way she interacted with the insane world in which she lived. In some ways, she was mature beyond her years because of the way she grew up and the world that was thrust upon her. In other ways, she was a very typical young teenage girl. She feels like she’s smarter than the adults around her. She’s becoming aware of her sexuality, vacillating between wanting her first time to be special and thinking that sex is really gross. She feels invincible. I found her to be a very convincing 14-year-old girl. I really liked that Moning seems to be letting Dani be a kid and won’t rush her into a sexual relationship before she grows up. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this series goes.

At this point, I must point out that this is NOT a young adult novel despite the age of the main character. While Dani may be a virgin, there is a lot of sex in this book, most of it destructive. It’s also fairly gruesome in places. I wouldn’t freak out if an older teen reads it, but I wouldn’t be recommending it to them.

As much as I enjoyed this book, I would not recommend the audio version. This production uses two narrators, Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross. By having both a male and female narrator, one would think that the male would do parts told from a male character’s point of view and the female would do the parts from the female points of view. However, over 90% of this book is told from a female first-person perspective, so Phil Gigante’s impressive skills would be wasted if all he had to read were the parts that Christian tells. Instead of the typical method of using two narrators, this production splices Gigante’s voice into every bit of dialogue spoken by a male character. This is really annoying because it throws the listener out to the mode of listening to someone tell a personal story. If I were to tell you about a conversation I had with my husband, I certainly would be using my own voice to tell you what my husband or son said, not having some guy say his words for me.

The female narrator, Natalie Ross, was a poor choice for this particular book. The main reason I didn’t like her narration was that she simply sounded too old to be a 14-year-old girl. She sounds like she’s over 30. There are plenty of female narrators can do teenage voices well, she isn’t one of them. Ross also attempts to use an Irish accent for both Dani and Kat, but she fails miserably. It sometimes sounds fake Irish and sometimes sounds like the American South. She would have been better off not using any kind of accent, just her real voice. There also wasn’t much of a difference in how she voiced Dani vs. Kat. I got confused when the first Kat scene came up and it took me a couple of minutes to realize that it wasn’t Dani speaking.

Overall, I highly recommend Iced to fans of Urban Fantasy. It’s one of the better entries in the genre. It leaves the reader wanting more, but doesn’t leave the primary story hanging. My only suggestion is to read the print version rather than listening to the audio.

Reviewed by Sandi Kallas.

The SFFaudio Podcast #209 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Door In The Wall by H.G. Wells

April 22, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #209 – The Door In The Wall by H.G. Wells, narrated by Jason Mills (from LibriVox). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (40 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mirko and Mr. Jim Moon.

Talked about on today’s show:
1906, Mirko’s choice, Audrey , The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger, Astrid Lindgren, a weird subject, Kingdom Of The Ants, The Flowering Of The Strange Orchid, The Sea-Raiders, fairy tales, the one video adaptation of The Door In The Wall, bitey leopards, open symbolism, premonitions, the garden as a symbol of that what was missing, “there’s more than just the hard headed practicalities”, all the things that it is not, nostalgia, do I have a green door in my life?, “not-stalgia”, happy memories, that longing for things that could have been, the wall appears at critical moments in his life (and the lives of others), the story is front loaded, is it the garden of Eden?, a striking list, untended flowers, no weeds, spikes of delphiniums, red steps, marble, fountains, a sundial, distant hills, London, not-London, parquets, the two spotted panthers, Odysseus and Circe, turning men into animals, the “very clean” capuchin monkey, this way and that way, the fair girl’s first word is “Well?”, “old man musing among laurels”, is the old man him?, the dark woman with a book, The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud, The Red Bird, “the mother of all childs”, becoming a librarian in real life, suicide, was the last door a false door?, “the grave mother”, is she fate?, the portal into Narnia, The Tomb by H.P. Lovecraft, only kids and teenagers can see the door, a reversal of Narnia, Weena’s garden in The Time Machine, idiot playmates, the idyllic garden is not a place of struggle, the false Eden of The Time Machine, women’s voting rights?, an escapist life vs. an active participation in society, “how does this apply to the real world?”, Wells’ own life, Lionel Wallace sacrifices his life (until he stops), showing up, it can’t be an accident that the main Wallace is a politician, The Music Of Erich Zann, Pickton’s Model, missing streets, The Window To Another World by Lord Dunsany, The Crystal Egg by H.G. Wells, “‘So what do you know about panthers?’ I said.”, Dionysus, a dichotomous god (the opposite of Apollo), the panther symbolizes the overcoming of earthly desires, H.G. Wells’ peccadilloes, there’s much material in this small story, the incidences of the door increases, science and reality vs. illusion, “the reader must judge for themselves”, the perfect summer, Ray Bradbury, idealized fantasy landscapes, vivid and indistinct, does the garden have visitors and permanent residents?, the gallery, the last page, in turning that page of realities he is suddenly back on the street, The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe, “the can live whole lives in there”, the Goodreads reviews, Doctor Who, dalek playmates, Neverland, C.E. Weber, “it is our old friend the dear old magic door”, Star Trek’s holodeck, Behind The Green Door, a private members club, the narrative style gives a documentary distance, Nyarlathotep, The Crawling Chaos, Fungi From Yuggoth, Wells didn’t write sympathetic characters, The Country Of The Blind, The Invisible Man, flawed humanity, pull it back sir and get a life.

The Door In The Wall by H.G. Wells
The Door In The Wall by H.G. Wells
The Door In The Wall by H.G. Wells

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Telling by Ursula K. LeGuin

April 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Telling by Ursula K. LeGuinThe Telling (Hainish Cycle)
By Ursula K. LeGuin; Performed by Gabra Zackman
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
ISBN: 978-1-4692-8062-2
6 discs; 7 hours [UNABRIDGED]

Themes: / Hainish / planets / libraries / storytelling / alien races / pilgrimage /

Publisher summary:

Once a culturally rich world, the planet Aka has been utterly transformed by technology. Records of the past have been destroyed, and citizens are strictly monitored. But an official observer from Earth named Sutty has learned of a group of outcasts who live in the wilderness. They still believe in the ancient ways and still practice its lost religion — the Telling. Intrigued by their beliefs, Sutty joins them on a sacred pilgrimage into the mountains…and into the dangerous terrain of her own heart, mind, and soul.

When I first started listening to The Telling, I didn’t realize it was in the same universe as  The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, in fact I didn’t know those two books were related either. This story takes place in a loosely related world, but on a new planet. Sutty has been sent to collect the printed historical record, but arrives to discover most of it has been destroyed. Her own life on Terra was destroyed when her lover was killed by drones, and being sent to Aka may or may not be a way to push her out of the way of normal life. Along the way she finds out about a practice called “The Telling,” that is more than just an oral storytelling tradition. The story is concise although it ends a little too abruptly to understand what will happen in the future on Aka. I’m not convinced Sutty has as much power as she thinks she has to effect change.

The reader, Gabra Zackman, does a nice job, although the sounds made during the tellings sounded a little like orgasms. Maybe they were supposed to.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

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